Living in the Capital is like being “in a gas chamber” said the Delhi high court on Thursday as it gave a slew of directions including a check on construction sites creating dust pollution, implementation of a ban on waste burning and providing air masks to traffic personnel.
The court’s instructions came on a day an expert from the non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) painted a grim picture of the city’s toxic air, saying there has been a “sevenfold increase” in Delhi’s air pollution since October.
While the smog cover was thin on Thursday, real-time exposure readings of nearly all monitoring stations put the levels of the coarse PM10 and the finer PM2.5 particles at “very poor”. Vehicular emissions and burning of leaves combine with winter weather to form a deadly mix of air in the Capital, which last year beat Beijing as the world’s most polluted city in WHO rankings.
The high court, which took suo moto cognisance of reports on rising air pollution in the Capital earlier this year, also directed the Centre and Delhi government on Thursday to submit an action plan to deal with the problem in Delhi-NCR.
It expressed displeasure at the environment ministry and Delhi government’s action plans saying they did not contain specific responsibilities of each authority and the timeline for carrying them out.
The court observed that the two major causes of air pollution in the city were dust particles and vehicular emissions.
It directed the Delhi government and other authorities to ensure that construction sites are checked to minimize generation of dust and submit an action-taken report on “surprise visit” checks at such spots.
“There has been a seven-time increase in pollution levels since October 1,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, who heads the CSE’s Clear Air programme. “We took pollution data from October 1 and compared it to figures from a couple of days back. The winter pollution is going to be very serious. Advisories need to be issued asking people to minimise their levels of outdoor activity.”
The high court also directed the Delhi government and municipal corporations to publicise through electronic and print media that burning of leaves, plastic and garbage is prohibited, as per the orders of the National Green Tribunal.
On the issue of emissions from idling automobiles and vehicular congestion, traffic police told the court they had identified 14 areas which were “extremely affected” where improvements have been observed due to “sustained efforts”. The smog in the city has dissipated slightly as cloudy conditions do not allow the formation of dense fog that blends with fumes, a Met official said.